Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

People: An unwelcome man in Havana

THE LEADER of the French Communist Party, Georges Marchais, was somewhat miffed when his holiday idyll at a Caribbean resort was disrupted by the threatened arrival of the man he loathes most: Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front. Mr Marchais, who had spent a week in the socialist paradise of Cuba as a guest of the government, pointed out to his hosts that Mr Le Pen was not the kind of politician they should be entertaining. The Havana foreign ministry pleaded not guilty. Mr Le Pen, they said, was travelling on a tourist visa, paying with hard currency for the pleasure of watching another Stalinist bastion crumble. So it is probably just a coincidence that Mr Le Pen cancelled his holiday yesterday at the last minute, complaining of an 'extreme pain in the back'.

CONTRARY to what one might imagine, Scott Peck, 24, seems almost to be enjoying himself after being nationally 'outed' by his own father, Marine Colonel Scott Peck, during US Senate hearings on homosexuals in the military last week. The quintessence of square-jawed, GI maleness, Peck Snr was a household face in the US last winter as the armed forces spokesman in Somalia. After revealing to the Senate that he had just learned of his own son's homosexuality, he none the less concluded that the Marines would not tolerate gays in their midst. Since then, Scott Jnr, accompanied by his lover, Bobby Hampson, has been touring the television talk shows. Scott Jnr apparently bears no grudge: 'My father can be a sarcastic SOB when he wants, but he really came through for me this time,' he says.

MORE THAN three years after US troops toppled the Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, the search for his stolen plunder has yielded little more than a few pet tapirs. The five animals were taken from the general's private zoo soon after the December 1989 invasion. But they are scant compensation for what he stole in two decades of military rule. A magistrate working on the case said that up to dollars 250m ( pounds 167m) lay in bank accounts or was invested in property, goods or animals from Panama City to Paris. 'It's a very tangled situation,' a presidential aide lamented.

THE ROUGH and tumble of British football has taken its toll on General Uri Saguy, the head of Israel's military intelligence service. When he visited London in November 1991 he asked for four tickets for a top match, at a cost of pounds 72. The Israeli military attache put the tickets on his expenses for entertaining General Saguy. Accountants queried the claim but the general declined to explain his secret mission at the football ground.

THE ailing Erich Honecker, who said recently he regretted nothing of his stint as East German strongman, is whiling away his days in Chilean exile writing his memoirs. He promises 'the true history' of East Germany - 'who brought it down and how'. He told the Italian magazine Panorama: 'I am devoting the final energies of my life to writing a book which will explain many things.' There will, he promises, be 'lots of surprises.'

(Photograph omitted)

TALKING of old Communist leaders, more than 170 people have contacted the family of Mao Tse-tung lately, claiming to be long-lost relatives.

One couple showed up on the doorstep of Mao's only surviving son, Mao Anqing and staged a sit-down strike until they were let in. Another man went to the university where Mao Anqing's son was studying and hung around his room, calling him 'nephew'.

But the boldest claim was made by a man in his 60s who published a book in which he asserted he was Mao's son, Mao Anlong. Mao and his first wife, Yang Kaihui, had a son in 1927 but lost him in the confusion of civil war.

Mao's surviving son, Mao Anqing, denounced the book and the government banned it. The pretender was actually called Ju Tai, and was the son of a well-off farming family who had joined the Red Army in 1941 and was discharged in the 1960s because of mental problems.